Facebook Unlikely to Launch Universal Virtual Currency Anytime Soon

Over the past few months, virtual currency has become increasingly popular as a means to monetize virtual worlds, social networks, and games. While companies such as OfferPal, Super Rewards, Peanut Labs, Sometrics, and Gambit have all been prominent providers of virtual currency monetization services, there has never been an overriding universal currency within the Facebook ecosystem of applications.

At the GamesBeat conference in San Francisco in March, Gareth Davis of Facebook said the company was “looking at” such a currency system for the Facebook Platform. Facebook already has a virtual gifts system, and last week Facebook started experimenting with virtual currency gifting in the feed.

However, Facebook has given no clear indication that it is interested in actively developing a currency system that would exist across all Facebook applications in the near future. Such a system would be complex to build and administer, and would make companies helping application developers monetize increasingly concerned.

In addition, it’s not even clear that a Facebook-run system would necessarily perform better than third party solutions, many of which specialize in providing services to users in particular age or geographic segments.

Unlike hi5, which launched a new API around its hi5 Coins virtual currency a few weeks ago at SXSW, Facebook is operating with much longer time horizons. We think it’s likely to be a while before a universal virtual currency system for Facebook app developers exists.